Sydney, NSW - The Hitcher
As a rookie policeman Ben was working in a police station in Sydney’s northern suburbs in the small hours of the evening when he received a call that a house in an adjacent suburb was on fire. What was to have been a routine job was about to take a turn for the weird.
"This particular dwelling wasn’t too far from the police station, in fact we could see the flames and the smoke. It was the last night of a 7-day nightshift and I was on duty with a senior constable, who had seen a lot more than I had ever seen in my short time of being there. So it was of no great consequence when we were called out to the job.
"When we arrived we saw a variety of fire trucks and appliances and the building was quite well alight. At the scene were some rather distressed relatives and, as a police officer, we had to go up and ask who owned the property and interview the relatives. It transpired they could not find an elderly uncle who had been residing at the back of the house, which was actually a detached garage that had been set on fire.
"The uncle was an elderly gentleman in his mid to late 60s who had had extensive operations on his legs and hips and found it difficult to get around. As a result of that our suspicions were aroused because he was not in the near vicinity, so when the blaze was finally put out and it was cool enough to enter we walked into the shell of the house.
"At the rear of the home there were melted appliances and burnt furniture and a bed in the corner. A fireman, the other policeman and myself pulled the bed away from the wall and there was the body of the suspected victim, the elderly gentleman.
"We got some lighting put up and we had to wait for scientific to come down and take some photos. Gradually it quietened down a bit and the relatives were moved on to a nearby house. There was not much else to do but escort the body to the city morgue, which was at the time located in Glebe.
"This particular senior constable I was working with had a devilish sense of humour and we had one police torch between the two of us. He had a piece of wire, which looked like it might have been an old coat hanger. He was flicking through some of the things around the body and looking for any identifying marks or property that might have been on the person.
"As he shone the torch down towards this person’s head – which was badly burnt, hard to identify – he illuminated the patch of white skull which had been exposed after the flesh was burnt away. There was a very large crack across the front of the skull.
"My partner, kneeling beside the body, decided he would investigate this further to see if there had been any foul play. He indicated to the crack and I leaned forward to hear him say, in a comical manner, "What do you think of the show so far?" to the corpse. As the wire touched the front of the skull the crack widened slightly and he threw his voice, saying "Rubbish!" in a scene reminiscent of a popular comedy program on the ABC.
"I rolled my eyes and told him to stop mucking around. We had the photos taken and put the body in a bag – actually in this case large sheets of plastic – and the body was conveyed to Glebe. The city morgue is open at all hours and there is always an attendant on duty.
"We parked our Ford police car outside the entrance to the morgue in Ross Street, which at the time was monitored by a black and white surveillance camera. We booked in the body, because it is the Police’s job to write up what we believe to be the cause of death and the circumstances of how the body came to be at the morgue in the first place. The body was taken into the cold storage area and the attendant, who wanted to check for identifying property etc, began scraping the fingers and wrists for rings and other personal property – as he proceeded, brittle pieces of bone and skin from the deceased snapped off.
"There was no identification on the body so the attendant went about completing the paperwork when he suddenly looked up at the security camera and asked "Who have you got waiting for you in the car?"
"We both looked at the monitor in surprise. At the time I looked at the monitor I could see quite clearly the outline of someone in the passenger seat and I thought the car was going to be knocked off. Both my partner and myself ran outside to see absolutely no one near the car, no one around the car and no one in the car.
"When we walked back inside the attendant again pointed out the shadow in the front seat of the car and said, "Well, there’s still a person seating in your car." There was no apparent reason why there would be a person sitting in the front seat. Certainly we couldn’t see any features but there was definitely someone there.
"Thoroughly spooked, we drove the car back to the station and didn’t discuss the figure, which was gone again when we went outside for the final time to leave. There was a shared sense of uneasiness between the two of us on the return trip. It was a very creepy night."